Bon Voyage 9.25.12 Part 2

March 30, 2013 in Roots International, Scott Montgomery by Roots International

Continued from

I began to leave Entebbe airport and as I was ten steps from the door, I was asked, “What are in these bags?”  I explained to the customs staff that they were medical supplies for an NGO I work for and was told that the items must be inspected first.  I then waited for about one and a half hours for a representative from the National Drug Authority of Uganda (NDA) to arrive for the inspection.  As I mostly deal with accounting matters, I was unaware of any regulations for bringing items into the country which I began explaining to the NDA staff.  Upon inspection many of the supplies had sterility issues such as being past the expiration and/or opened.  The NDA staff was very helpful explaining which items would not be allowed to enter and the process to clear the other items for entrance.  The customs staff did not share the same professionalism and started getting hostile, demanding for my passport, making accusations, etc.

Fortunately I was able to keep the situation from escalating, ensure the items we kept safe, get a receipt, and not fall asleep (by now I had been awake over two days straight!)  Unfortunately a large box of water filters which I purchased in the US and brought with me was disturbed by the other NGO’s items and also had to stay at the airport.  During my fourth hour in Uganda I finally reconvened with my travel mate and finally met our driver, Wandera.

Wandera was very friendly and after watching many near misses with other vehicles, people, bodas (motorbikes), and animals I began to realize that the driving style is much more aggressive in Uganda and he was in fact a very good driver.  I don’t sleep well in cars either so instead I watched the banana trees, sugarcane, corn, children playing, the roadside shops all zoom by through the window.  It got dark by the time we reached Jinja which is about halfway to Mbale.  After taking some passion juice and vegetable samosa we continued to Mbale.

During the rest of the drive it rained, but I was surprised to see many people walking, riding bicycles, or taking boda in some areas where you could not see any towns or even lights for miles.  Also one of the first noticeable differences in Africa is children travelling by themselves or with other children is very normal.  This was true even at night on the side of a dangerous road during the rain.

We finally reached Mbale and upon arriving at the guest house quickly met all of the Uganda team (mostly again).  I found my room and figured out how to arrange the mosquito net.   I still couldn’t sleep for about an hour, but after turning on some music I finally fell asleep ending my 60 hour journey.  Tomorrow morning another visiting group planned to tour a program near the top of a nearby mountain called Wanale.  It sounded like a nice first day but who knows if I would wake up tomorrow.

Scott Montgomery